- Number 433 |
- February 23, 2015
Wind energy is blowing away skeptics—it's so close to achieving cost parity with fossil fuels that just a little extra efficiency is all that is likely needed to push it into the mainstream and past the Energy Department's goal of 20% wind energy by 2030.
That extra efficiency may be realized with the help of a software tool built by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It's called Simulator for Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA), and it can calculate how undulating ground, whipping blades, surface temperatures, and other variables alter the air flow and energy production at wind farms.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently selected Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to join a collaborative research team that intends to build the world’s first neural system to enable naturalistic feeling and movements in prosthetic hands.
Known as Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX), the program seeks to provide wounded service members with dexterous control over advanced prosthetic devices that substitute for amputated hands. If successful, HAPTIX intends to give patients the psychological benefit of having natural sensation in their prosthetic hands and reduction of “phantom limb” pain, a sensation some amputees can feel despite the removal of a limb.
One of the keys to the successful deployment of chemical looping technologies is the development of affordable, high performance oxygen carriers. One potential solution is the naturally-occurring iron oxide, hematite. “Hematite is pretty cheap,” says Doug Straub, Technical Coordinator for the National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Chemical Looping Combustion (CLC) projects and the just-completed Industrial Carbon Management Initiative (ICMI). “You just dig it out of the ground and run it through a screen.” That affordability makes hematite attractive as an oxygen-carrier material, but high performance at the conditions imposed by the chemical looping process is also important. Researchers at the DOE lab are investigating how to enhance hematite-based oxygen carriers so they can stand up to high reactor temperatures. Oxygen carriers also need to be resilient in the face of frequent impacts with reactor walls, with each other, and (in coal-burning reactors) with coal particles. Researchers are also improving oxygen carriers so that they more completely combust the fuel.
Their work has paid off. Dr. Ranjani Siriwardane (who leads the CLC oxygen carrier research) and Dr. Duane Miller (a chemical engineer at NETL) have invented an oxygen carrier that pairs magnesium oxide with hematite. During a pilot-scale run through NETL’s fluidized bed reactor last year, their carrier showed better performance than carriers that contained just natural hematite.
From the floor to the rafters, the world's most advanced synchrotron light source was filled with hundreds of people—including U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Representatives Lee Zeldin and Kathleen Rice, and a number of other distinguished guests—who gathered as Secretary Moniz dedicated the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab on Feb. 6.
NSLS-II is a $912-million DOE Office of Science User Facility that produces extremely bright beams of x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared light. With x-rays 10,000 times brighter than its predecessor's, researchers at NSLS-II will examine a wide range of materials, including superconductors and catalysts, geological samples, and biological proteins to accelerate advances in energy, environmental science, and medicine.